Saturday, 4 July 2015

Just for me to kick in space

Have you ever been to Swindon? It's the butt of many jokes and much derision. A staging post on Brunel's great endeavour to Bristol, and now largely regarded as a somewhat soulless and graceless place. A blot on the landscapes of the Marlborough Downs and nearby Vale of the White Horse.

I've been there countless times for it is the land of my father. The places where all this used to be fields. Where you could go to the shops, have a meal out, two pints, trip to the cinema and still have change from sixpence. Where you could play football against the outside of the wall or across the vegetable patch and receive nothing but admiring comments from the grown-ups inside.

A house full of hugs, total adoration without expectation,  instead of disapproving parental glances. In other words the land of benign grandparents.

So I have fond memories of the place. Especially the walks we used to take along the tops of the downs along the Ridgeway to Uffington Castle. I've never had a tattoo, and I am now unlikely to get one, but for a while I thought about having the Uffington White horse adorn my arm.

The latest in my top ten songs all comes out of that conflation, mixed with some post-punk sensibility, and some of the finest song-writing never to get the acclaim it deserves.

I didn't realise that XTC were from Swindon when I first got into them, but I should have guessed. I think they still live in that vicinity. Dreadful stage-fright on the part of Andy Partridge, one of the founders and effectively the last man standing when they stuttered to a halt in the early 2000s, curtailed their performances after 1982. But I think that probably drove them to even greater heights of studio-based creativity.

Never that commercially successful, Senses Working Overtime (album version - which has extra lyrics and music compared to the shorter single version) is one of their better known songs. And unusually, I just enjoy it for its melodic appeal, it's just a joyful piece of work. How unlike me.

They do good political and cutting-edge stuff too, it's just that this one reminds me of my walk along the Ridgeway, or doing the White Horse Challenge, my grandparents, and all that good stuff. Things that make you glad to be alive, even if overwhelmed. And some of its lyrics do remind me of what goes on inside my own head at times. Oops, there I go with my meaningful stuff again.

Of course it helped that the album from whence it came, "English Settlement" had that picture on it. With only embossed words on the original (which I had and can't find on the internet), not in white writing like in subsequent re-pressings, or the CD that's now available. Only the genuinely obsessive would know that, and for a while I was obsessed with XTC. So I apologise for this non-original picture.

I even managed to find the album version for you to listen to though.

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